By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 9:17 am
(UPDATE: Google says it’s figured out how to make Gears work in Firefox within Snow Leopard.)
Gmail’s extremely useful offline access feature has graduated from Labs and is now “a regular part of Gmail.” Users of Google’s mail service can now read, compose, and manage mail even when they don’t have a working Internet connection. Well, many folks can–but not Mac users who are running the current version of Apple’s operating system, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Offline Gmail depends on Google’s Gears framework, and Gears doesn’t work in Snow Leopard.
I was hoping that Google’s announcement of offline Gmail’s formal debut would clarify the status of Gears in general and Gears on Snow Leopard in particular, ideally with an “Offline Gmail doesn’t work on Snow Leopard, but we’re working on it,” or at least with a “Sorry, Snow Leopard users, offline Gmail doesn’t work with your OS.” But nope–Snow Leopard isn’t mentioned.
Actually, Gears isn’t mentioned either. Which is kind of peculiar given that the blog post with the news explains how to enable offline Gmail. When I try to turn it on, I’m immediately told that Gears is a necessity.
That’s in Firefox–but when I try to install Gears, I get dumped at a page at the Gears page that explains the technology but doesn’t tell me I can’t install it on my OS. If I didn’t know about the compatibility issue, I’d still be staring bemusedly at my screen and wondering what was wrong. (In Safari, Gmail tells me that my browser doesn’t support offline access.)
I don’t think it’s paranoid to take this as the latest sign that Google is giving up on Gears in favor of HTML 5, which will (eventually) enable similar capabilities. I hope I’m wrong, though. I’d love to see a post at the Gears blog (which hasn’t been updated since May) serve as a definitive update on the state of Gears. Even if its state is…moribund.
Meanwhile, Gmail Offline Access is pretty darn neat, if you can get it…